The Aftermath: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Network with other poets, including fans of Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog.
Brian
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The Aftermath: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Brian » Fri May 09, 2008 9:28 am


Brian
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The Aftermath: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Brian » Fri May 09, 2008 9:28 am

On May 22, our favorite WD poet Robert Lee Brewer will be swinging by the forum for a full day (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST) of answering your poetry, writing and publishing-related questions. Many of you know Robert from his popular blog, Poetic Asides, but for those who don't here's a full bio:

Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Writer's Market and WritersMarket.com. He's also the co-founder of Poetic Asides, a blog that covers everything poetry in a personal way from the perspective of a poet and an editor. Brewer's poetry has been published in several online and print journals, including MiPOesias (Cafe Cafe Edition), Denver Syntax, MEAT, Otoliths, Foliate Oak and Words Dance.

So stop back here (at this post) on Thursday, May 22 to chat with Robert. Or, if you're unable to make that date, feel free to post your question ahead of time right here, and Robert will do his best to answer on the 22nd.

To post a question to the Writer’s Digest Forum, you'll need to be a registered member (registration is free). For registration, visit:
http://forum.writersdigest.com/register.asp


tonyar
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Re: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby tonyar » Tue May 13, 2008 11:56 am

I will be out of town for a week starting on May 21 and I'm not sure if I'll have much internet access during my trip. I just want to say in advance that as a newcomer to the forum and as someone who hasn't submitted anything for publication in about ten years, I am really looking forward to reading the forum when I get home and seeing all of the wonderful advice! I feel through the PAD challenge that we have come to know not only all of the great poets there, but also Robert a little bit. So thanks, Robert, for all that you've done to get this forum going and for that insight into your world that we were able to know last month!

Skoder
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Re: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Skoder » Wed May 21, 2008 6:53 am

What, in your opinion, distinguishes poetry from prose? Is it the compactness of the word usage? Is it simply that the person chooses to call it poetry and put it in lines rather than paragraphs?

Much of what I have seen here is excellent writing. It reveals emotion, showing as well as telling, using great detail, etc. However, even in what I have written this month, it varies little from prose. I do know there is such a thing as the prose poem, but that is not my concern.

How much do poetic devices, comparisons, and creativity help someone remember or appreciate a poem? I do know much of this is subjective, but I enjoy poems that are creative and imaginative in some way. That is why I so enjoy Billy Collins. Also his comparisons help me remember some of his poems. Even though he is light-hearted in his tone, there is great seriousness in poems such as The Lanyard. He shows the reader the vast difference between mother love and the child’s love by the vast difference in their gifts to each other. The child can only offer his mother a lanyard in comparison to her giving birth to him, nursing him when he was sick, teaching him many things, etc.

Early in my recent poetry-writing days I wrote about what I had hoped to accomplish in my poetry. Do you think this is something we should try to achieve rather than simply stirring the emotions? It might be my “dark and stormy night” poem, but I wrote:

Lasting Impression

Words imprinting the mind
Like sharply defined footprints in wet sand,
Not being washed away
By waves of mundane thoughts

I find much of what I read in modern poetry being easily washed away by those mundane thoughts. I hope this is neither too long nor too opinionated, but I figure it is a good way to begin poetry questions.

Sheryl Kay Oder

Robert Lee Brewer
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Re: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Robert Lee Brewer » Wed May 21, 2008 7:45 am

It's a little on the early side, Sheryl, and this question is a tricky one, but here's my answer. Gosh, getting fastballs right from the beginning.

My view on poetry is that poetry is whatever a poet (the person writing) and a reader (the person reading) both agree should be called a poem. This means, of course, that a written piece can be a poem for 4 people in a group of 10 and still not be a poem for the 6 others. Of course, those 6 others might never read poetry without rhymes.

Rhyming doesn't automatically mean that readers think you're writing poetry. Some may think you're just writing song lyrics.

So yes, by my definition, poetry is very subjective. But there's no other way to define poetry, because what really is the difference between song lyrics and a rhyme-laced poem and where do you draw the line between flash fiction and prose poem?

And I'm not about to say that you're only a poet if you write sonnets, sestinas, triolets, limericks, and other fun poetic forms--because that's just tremendously limiting.

Good question, Sheryl. Wish I could give a better answer.

Robert

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Re: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Diane-7 » Wed May 21, 2008 8:02 am

A humorous aside to the debate of what defines poetry:
I once entered a very short prose piece in a Science Fiction/Fantasy contest. In my own mind I had coined the term "poetic prose" for that piece and others like it. A short piece of prose that is similar to poems in function. Apparently a contest editor thought it was closer to poetry than prose. I have to say that I am very grateful that he passed it on to the poetry division! It was published in their anthology and won second place as Poetry! I thought there had been some mistake when I first got my award in the mail for a part of the contest I hadn't even entered!

Robert Lee Brewer
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Re: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Robert Lee Brewer » Wed May 21, 2008 8:28 am

That is funny, but also very true.

I would suggest reading my interviews with Jillian Weise and Julianna Baggott on the Poetic Asides blog. Both work in both fiction and poetry with confidence. It's interesting to see how they know they're writing one instead of the other.

Personally, I've started poems that have turned into stories. And after reading about the newspaper blackout poetry idea (also covered in the Poetic Asides blog), I can see applying that same trick to some of my short fiction to see what comes out as poetry.

ihatepeas
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RE: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby ihatepeas » Wed May 21, 2008 8:46 am

I (along with Poetic Asides Poet Laureate Sara Doyle) mentor teen writers, and though we love them all, their poetry continuously aggravates us. My two questions are the two things they do repeatedly that drive us crazy.

*What is the rule for punctuation in poetry? There is apparently some mental block when it comes to poetry as opposed to prose. Writers who have no problem with punctuation in fiction suddenly explode in their poems, flinging commas far and wide. Or else they implode, taking it all with them and there is not a punctuation mark to be seen.

*What about capitalization? It seems that people are still being taught in school that every line of a poem must be capitalized. Sara and I have harped on this constantly, as it makes poems very hard to read.

I'm hoping to take your answers, and anything else that might be relevant to the issues they struggle with, and post them in our poetry forum so they can hear from an authority besides us.

Not quite ready to throw up my hands,
Sarah P.

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Re: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Robert Lee Brewer » Wed May 21, 2008 9:10 am

Those are some good questions, Sarah P.

First, the rule for punctuation is that you should use regular punctuation--unless you have a valid reason for not doing so. And you can't use the excuse "just because" OR the excuse "I'm a rebel," because both excuses are code for "I'm lazy." I know, because I fell prey to those excuses myself as a teenager.

Second question, there are national poet laureates who still capitalize the first letter of each line. For instance, recent National Book Award winner Robert Hass continues this practice. That said, not every poet does this. And I personally find it annoying--unless it somehow adds to the poem. I suppose an argument could be made that it adds extra emphasis to slowing down at the beginning of each line.

As with everything in poetry, rules are meant to be broken. However, you should only break (or slightly bend) rules if you have a reason to back up your breaking and/or bending. Also, realize that breaking and bending rules can often limit your audience to poets who are open to poetic outlaws.

Best,

Robert

Btw, good on you and Sara for mentoring teen writers. Wow!

Diane-7
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Re: May 22: Ask the Pro with Robert Lee Brewer

Postby Diane-7 » Wed May 21, 2008 10:19 am

I was really confused about capitalization. Sometimes capitalizing every line seemed best, other times I only wanted to capitalize the beginning of each thought. I think the form of the poem can make a difference on which works best, but I am glad to know each line no longer has to be capitalized.

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